Wednesday, 19 June 2013
Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment Bill 2013; In Committee
The motion that the report be adopted is a crucial part of the whole debate on the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment Bill. We are reluctant to adopt the report from the committee because there has not been sufficient debate on the bill. I particularly am concerned that I was not given the opportunity of saying a few words on the amendment proposed by the Greens political party which would have had the effect of giving the Commonwealth minister the power to override the Queensland government in the management of its national parks and in particular the decision made by the Queensland government to allow starving cattle into Queensland national parks in an attempt to overcome an animal catastrophe, an animal welfare issue of horrendous proportions.
This is a bill which has incensed every Queenslander, and as a senator representing the state of Queensland I believe I should have had the opportunity of at least debating the bill. Instead, it was guillotined on the motion of the Greens political party. I can remember sitting in this chamber for hour upon hour listing to the Greens political party rail against even the very moderate use of guillotines by the Howard government. For example, the regional forest agreement debate went for some 36 hours, kept going by the leader of the Greens political party simply repeating himself. When the Howard government moved to curtail the debate, after 36 hours of repetition, we then had hours more of the Greens saying how awful it was to curtail a debate after 36 hours.
You and I, Mr Acting Deputy President Furner, as representatives of the state of Queensland, have a vital interest in this amendment dealing with Commonwealth control of state national parks. Were we given the opportunity to discuss it, to put forward the views of our constituents or to put forward the view of the RSPCA in Queensland, who thought it was a good idea? The Greens political party claim to be interested in animal welfare, but they would have 300,000 cattle in Queensland die a horrible death from starvation because they want to prevent them from using the limited grass that is available in some Queensland national parks.
This amendment moved by the Greens has nothing to do with the substantive part of the bill we were discussing—nothing to do with coal seam gas, the protection of water or care for the aquifers; nothing to do with that. But, here, tacked on, in a very tacky way, in the proposed amendments on sheet of 7394 the Greens political party have raised this issue of the declaration of national parks. Had these amendments been carried, they would have given the Commonwealth minister the power to override the Queensland minister and the Queensland government in that area, where a very sensible decision was made to allow starving cattle access to the limited food available in national parks. Yet, on this matter, we were not given the opportunity to say one word. Senator Birmingham had about 15 minutes to traverse a series of complicated amendments. That was all that was allowed. Then we saw the Greens political party move the guillotine, the gag, to stop debate on this most important issue.
However, I do not want to hold up the chamber any further. I understand we have a lot to discuss. I see I have 15 minutes left. I know that my colleague Senator Back would like to say a few words on the same subject and on the proposed amendment to the bill. But I make this point in all good faith. I could say a lot more in the 14 minutes or so I have left to address my other issues, but in consideration of the procedures of the Senate and because my colleague Senator Back wants to say a few words, I am going to sit down before my time is up. But I do hope that the guillotining frenzy of the Labor Party and the Greens will not apply at least for the next 14 minutes so that my colleagues have the opportunity of saying a few words on this very important issue.